Iain Gray Freelance Writer

Battlestar Galactica: the new West Wing

When its final episode was aired in May 2006, the mighty West Wing left a huge vacuum in the schedules.

In its time, it was considered the finest piece of political drama ever seen on television, winning two Golden Globes and 26 Emmys. It was even credited with helping to force a Commons defeat for Labour.

Whatever was to follow it had to be intelligent, ambitious, downright contentious, and certainly not some sort of pale imitation.

So who would have thought that an updated version of a 1978 series and spin-off movie would be that show with nary an oval office in sight, no mention of Republicans or Democrats [or New Labour for that matter] and certainly no tracking shots around the corridors of a Georgian-style mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue while people speak four hundred fairly indecipherable words to each other every minute.

Oh, and it’s set in spaceĀ…

Yes, it’s true. Battlestar Galactica is the new West Wing.

A story about how the 12 colonies of humans are annihilated by terminator-like machines called Cylons, bringing mankind to the brink of extinction and forcing the ragtag band of survivors to flee into the depths of space, is a truly heavyweight piece of television.

However ridiculous this might sound, the evidence is piling up quicker than this article is ending my career.

In the second season alone we have witnessed the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War and the leadership race of the Liberal Democrats [okay, so I lied about the last one].

And looking at the overall premise, could it be that the humans are the Native American Indians, driven by force from their homes and compelled to wander in the wilderness, searching for another place to lay down roots, all the while tormented and attacked by an army of greater numbers and technology?

Or one could argue that it is a metaphor for the American War of Independence, the Cylons being the British occupiers and the humans representing the 13 colonies who rebelled against them in 1775.

And it is exactly this objectivity which makes this drama so compelling. Like the West Wing (which was loved [and hated] by Democrats and Republicans) it subtly lays out both sides of the argument and trusts in the intelligence of the audience to come to its own conclusions.

If a fraudulently-won election and a dramatic narrowing of the gulf between church and state seem to be an inherent criticism of George W Bush’s presidency, one is also forced to consider that without these measures, mankind would have been completely exterminated either by the Cylons or the extremist terrorists hiding unseen among the population, and they can thus be seen as necessary for the survival of our race.

There is one decision, however, where the show has steadfastly refused to pull any punches.

As the second season drew to a close, surely this show, this brave show, this American show, was not implying that the Cylons are a horrific representation of US foreign policy, and that the [predominately American] humans are now symbolic of Iraqis suffering under a US-led invasion of their homes?

After all, it’s just a silly bit of Science Fiction.


Article archive

2012

July

June

May

2009

April

March

February

January

2008

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2007

December

November

October